Molenbeek: main problems and 4 suggestions to solve them Author: Michaël Torfs

Belga
Mon 16/11/2015 - 10:34 Michaël Torfs Foreign media call the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek a hotspot for international terrorism. Even the Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said that Molenbeek is "the weakest link" in the international fight against terrorism. He vowed to "cleanse" the district personally. But why is it that Molenbeek is posing such a problem, and what can actually be done?

"The jihadi capital of Europe", "a hub for terrorism", these are just some of the things that could be read about Sint-Jans-Molenbeek in foreign media. Jambon admitted yesterday that "the situation is not under control" but added immediately that he will leave no stone unturned to have the district "cleaned up". Following is a shortlist of problems and possible solutions.

1. "Tackle the shortage of Arabic speakers"

The daily De Morgen points out that the Belgian intelligence services are short of Arabic speakers. It is reported they hardly have any. Vilvoorde Mayor Hans Bonte, a specialist in the fight against radicalism (as his municipality is also confronted with the problem of Syria fighters) calls it "a gigantic problem": "You can call it one of the biggest challenges for our Security Services."

The Justice Minister Koen Geens adds that this problem is being tackled. A procedure to hire 28 new staff was started in January, but the procedures and screenings take time. 

2. "Scrap the 6 Brussels police zones and make them one"

The Brussels Region has as many as 6 different police zones at present. The cooperation between the 19 Burgomasters in Brussels is not perfect. Experts suggest to make it one big police zone with a centralised management. This would improve both capacity and functioning. "In the area of security, Brussels is the perfect example of organised chaos", Bonte told De Morgen.

Security expert Brice De Ruyver said "a merger of the 6 police forces would be the best solution. This would create a police force with a fantastic capacity of 5,000 policemen."

3. Tackle unemployment and give youngsters a future

Population numbers in Molenbeek exploded over the past decades: the present number of 95,000 is 24,000 up on the year 2000. Almost 1 in 3 local residents don't have the Belgian nationality.

Unemployment numbers are soaring, with some 30 percent out of work. Experts say that this is an obvious possible cause for radicalism. Johan Le Man knows Molenbeek inside out: "If you don't have a future and if you are socially dead, you may opt for a heroic death. And this is what happens with a number of youngsters here."

However, it's a shared responsibility: the parents, imam preachers, social workers etc. also have a role to play.

4. "Abolish the Senate and invest the money in security"

Bart De Wever, the president of the Flemish nationalist N-VA, proposes in Gazet van Antwerpen to abolish the Belgian Senate and invest the cash in security and intelligence.

The N-VA has been pressing to abolish the Senate for some time, and sees a good opportunity now: "When you see that the first plenary session was replaced by a reception event for Charles Aznavour, then I say: abolish it and invest the fresh cash in the intelligence services."

De Wever also points to the problem of the different police zones and calls Brussels "a black hole where the monitoring of extremists is concerned." His solution is a merger between the different zones. De Wever also expressed his support for Jan Jambon (N-VA) who announced a "cleaning operation" in Molenbeek.